Long-range Intelligence?Posted: August 28, 2015
August 28, 2015
I am not a great believer in using CI to develop long-range intelligence reports. Why?
The first reason is that such a program can be costly and worse, difficult to justify, from a cost-benefit position. The accuracy and value of today’s finding/prediction may not be able to be evaluated for years.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yogi Berra, member Baseball Hall of Fame
The second reason is that most firms and their executives are not mentally positioned to deal with long-range issues. The focus of the majority of businesses is short-term – quarterly reports and reviews anyone? As for the executives (and managers), when the future comes, they may well not be there. So why should they worry take short-term pain for (a possible) long-term gain? If you do not believe that, ask yourself why so many long-term political problems, like Social Security, are just ignored, or have the “can kicked down the road”.
The third reason lies in being able to do something about what you find. If it is a trend like the declining availability of rare earth minerals, one firm probably cannot do anything about the underlying causes – it can only plan to respond (or not). If it is a different trend, one involving the actions of your competitors, and your possible response to them, then doing something about it may have (unintended) consequences.
Let me illustrate. Many observers said that the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would fundamentally change the structure of US healthcare. OK – so what?
Take the case of the largest health insurers, who seem to be imploding into each other now. Say your prediction on the passage of Obamacare was that this could (not “would”) eventually occur. So, what would your company, an insurer do? Probably try to make an early, more attractive acquisition or sale to get ahead of the trend, and thus nail down the best deal.
But, once your firm takes that step, aren’t you in danger of triggering your competitors, who may not have wanted to do that at all or do it so quickly, into following on – now? What if you had not acted so quickly – or at all? Would they have held back too? So, in a very real way, your action taken in response to what you perceive as the future shapes the future which will eventually unfold – which may have been different if you had not so acted.
“The future depends on what you do today.” Mahatma Gandhi
How many long-range intelligence programs do you think actually take into effect this Pachinko effect? And how many iterations can they consider before losing all credibility or intelligibly?
Yes, we have to consider underlying long-range trends and actions of others, but there are very real limits.